Lucy Nabijou is coordinator of Haringey Welcome, a grass roots group of local residents who are standing up for dignity, justice and welcome in their Borough.
She says for herself that she is an ordinary Londoner, who through her disability became more engaged in her local area because she realised through being disabled how important it is to have good networks and support.
“Engaging with my neighbours and community has become really important for me and issues around migration, refugees and racism have come into that because I want to live in a community that is open, accepting and welcoming. The volunteer work that I do with Haringey Welcome represent my values in that sense.”
But Lucy is far from being ordinary. She has been involved in social justice initiatives for a long time.
“Going back a few decades to the 90s, I worked in the Palestinian occupied territories and that was a real awakening, for issues around refugees, rights and justice. When I came back to London, I continued to teach ESOL in a college in Tottenham. I met many people from many different areas of conflict around the world and learnt more about their experiences. After I retired due to my ill-health, I started volunteering again and engaging more locally.”
“During the lockdown, I have become more conscious of how lucky I am because I have a secure home and did not have to worry about work”, says Lucy. But life has not been easy for her and made her more aware of the importance of support networks.
The activities of Haringey Welcome continued on Zoom, and there was a lot to engage with. The pandemic and the lockdown revealed new challenges for disadvantaged people such as digital poverty, especially the exclusion of school children who did not have access to the Internet, and access to healthcare, especially for homeless people.
“We see our role as residents standing up for our neighbours, particularly advocating for services for those who are destitute and marginalised.”
“We wanted to do something in solidarity with women migrants, and through organising with Migrants Organise and work on the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) Charter, during the pandemic and the lockdown, we learned more about the plight of the migrant domestic workers from the Voice for Domestic Workers organisation. We met their Director Marissa and discussed how we could stand in solidarity with them as allies in the work that they do.”
“What we learned about the experiences of migrant domestic workers was a real eye opener. Their experiences are poorly understood by most people. Domestic migrant workers are invisible, they are so isolated and they live in the place where they work. The hostile environment regulations put them into such precarious and disempowering circumstances. They are easily exploitable and the lockdown has increased that. The work visa system for migrant domestic workers makes it almost impossible for them to change employers and as the visa is non-renewable it is very easy for them to become undocumented. It has been an eye-opening experience for me”, says Lucy.
Part of Haringey Welcome’s work, in addition to advocacy and campaigning, is story telling of local people by local people – artists, writers, school children. They have organised events, poetry competitions, published poems about welcome written by local children, organised exhibitions and theatrical performances.
“A few years ago, in response to the plight of Syrian refugees and people dying while making perilous journeys across the sea, I wrote this poem Adversity Rhyme – the story of one woman’s escape from war and her journey towards Europe with her young child. I then made it into a song which we decided to record to help us raise funds for the Voice of Domestic Workers”
Recording a song is a complex endeavour under normal circumstances, but the Haringey Welcome crew was not put off by the challenge of recording remotely in the middle of the lockdown. And Lucy is a great organiser under any circumstances.
“I am an amateur musician, but my nephew Kayvon is a professional and was very keen to help. It took a lot of time to record and synchronise all the musicians and singers, but it all worked and we had an amazing launch event” says Lucy.
“Everyone contributed their time and talent on a voluntary basis in order to raise funds for migrant women domestic workers in crisis. If we raise £5,000 it will be matched and doubled by one single donor, so if you are able to do so please donate here.
Daddy was brave and he fought to the last
As he took up the gun, the die was cast
A martyr he stays, but daddy has passed
Child cleaved to her breast, she has to move fast
وحكاية كل واحد بدها أكثر من أغنية
[And to tell each one’s story needs more than one song]
Put the charger, gold rings and the cash in a sack
Stay clear of those killers and their flags of black
Climb into the truck, then follow the track
Walk to the border and never look back
وحكاية كل واحد بدها أكثر من حياة
[And to tell each one’s story needs more than one life]
The smuggler has given them jackets of lead
‘The ocean will carry you safely’ he said
‘Hand over those dollars and go straight ahead
This way you’ll find fortune, shelter and bread’
The boat takes on water wave after wave
She clings to the baby with all that God gave
Lost souls in the dark meet a watery grave
Who will be drowned and who will be saved?
وحكاية كل واحد بدها أكثر من زمن
[And to tell each one’s story needs more than time]
Mother and baby are brought to the shore
Gasping and shaking and shocked to the core
But Europe says ‘no, we don’t want any more
Send them to Turkey. Close the door’
Here is a blanket and here is a fence
Here are some rations and here is a tent
Here she will stay until resettlement
Til she’s waited so long that her life is spent
حكايات الناس لا يمكن إسكاتها
[And the people’s stories cannot be silenced]
May you not meet a day when your world is cursed
When the rebels will kill and the state is worse
When the sea is your coffin and death is your nurse